39 ii) “Nevermind. Something Master Davit used to say.”

“Nevermind. Something Master Davit used to say. Not important,” Shyan says.

For the next couple of hours, Montague, alongside a couple of dimple-cheeked helpers who seemed to emerge from the cabinets, and wore tiny, pointy green shoes, laundered the gang’s clothes. Weeks of sweat and grime flow with the water, leaving their simple garments fresh and clean.

This with the exception of Fassn of course, who’s still snoozing lightly on the floor, his mismatched garments and armour caked with filth and memories.

38 v) “Wow,” Montague says, despite himself

“Wow,” Montague says, despite himself. “You really came through.” He makes a show of weighing the sack of coins in his hand. “Pretty good tip for a bath and a haircut,” he adds.

“Can you do our clothes now too? We realize we’re kinda, well,” Shyan trails off.

“Stinky,” Fassn says, taking a deep whiff of his own underarm.

“We’ll pay you like normal this time.”

A great big grin spreads across the barber’s face. “Laundry, but of course! Coins up front, please.”

38 iv) If Abia takes any offense

If Abia takes any offense at the barber’s casual derision of the dragon, her former boss, she doesn’t show it. Her face still has the vague glaze of a daydream.

“Well the dragon wasn’t the nicest, uh, fellow,” Shyan says. “But he did pay us.” She lobs a small sack of coins and Montague fumbles in catching it. His fatigued face suddenly lights up.

38 ii) The grumpy barman runs them off

The grumpy barman runs them off and the gang stumbles, bleary, into the streets, the dry heat already picking up. Sweat-stained peasants saunter by and the reek of alcohol rises from the gang.

“Maybe now we can get our clothes cleaned too,” Shyan says, poking at a handful of coins cupped in her palm. “Hm,” she says, squinting at them. “Seems to be less than I thought.”

“Alcohol has that sort of inebr—” Cang begins, before a fit of hiccups interrupts him.

Eyebrows furrowed against the traitorous sun, the gang makes for Montague’s barbership.

30 v) Montague snips away at Fassn’s hair

Montague snips away at Fassn’s hair until the bushy mass has something of a shaped and styled look to it. He even puts a few braids into Fassn’s beard, conditioning the dry, wiry hair until it has a sheen like the twinkle in Fassn’s eye.

He luxuriates in a tub while the others, one by one, move through the barbery chair. Cang is quickest, but he’s never felt his bald head so smooth and supple as now. Shyan has her mess of hair trimmed to clean lines, and Abia’s dreadlocks are renewed with sweet-smelling beeswax.

When all is complete, Monsier Montague says, “It is customary to tip, yes? But I know you are penniless, despite your noble appearance. Thus I eagerly anticipate your return!” And with that, he turns to sweeping as the sun crests its zenith outside.